Euthanasia, the Next Step
In the 1970s we were faced with Roe vs. Wade, and out of ignorance, we legalized abortion. Who would ever have thought that our "one nation under God" could have allowed the slaughter of its own children? Now, we, with c.40 million abortions since 1973, are faced with another form of murder in disguise. This murder is called mercy killing, death with dignity, or commonly known as euthanasia. The Church understands euthanasia as "an action or an omission which of itself or by intention causes death, in order that all suffering may in this way be eliminated (Declaration on Euthanasia, 1980)."
Euthanasia can be either active or passive. Passive euthanasia allows one to die by withholding or withdrawing life supporting means. This is a tricky area because ordinary and extraordinary means of supporting life come into the picture. Ordinary means, such as nutrition and hydration, are never to be withheld since they are ones basic right in order to survive. However, one is not obligated to use extraordinary or disproportionate means to sustain life. Due to complexity, each situation needs to be looked at individually when discussing extraordinary means. However, as a rule, one can discontinue "medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome (Catechism, #2278)." One can not intend death by withdrawing or withholding treatment, but should, however, obey God and let one die a natural death. To withdraw a treatment as a condition worsens is letting one die and not a direct killing. In this case, it is the disease that is doing the killing and not the one who withdraws the treatment.
Active euthanasia or mercy killing pertains to the Dr. Kevorkians of the day. This is the direct intentional killing of a patient with either their consent (voluntary), without their consent when impossible (non-voluntary), or without consent but not sought (involuntary). Advocates of this murder have covered their ears to the command of the Lord: Thou shall not kill! The goal is to eliminate or relieve suffering by an evil means of death. Many patients are in immense suffering and may be led to choose death as the answer by these doctors, friends or relatives. The culpability for the patient, in these cases may be lessened, but, this act of killing can never be justified as a means. These patients, whether having an incurable disease, being elderly, or suffering in other ways, are crying out for help and love. Palliative care, not death, is the answer. Medical personnel, friends and family must reach out and comfort the afflicted. Suffering and pain is manageable, especially today, with so many different medicines and treatments available. Painkillers can be used as long as there is no danger or intention of death. Consciousness of the patient is strongly encouraged, so that if dying, one may prepare to meet Christ.
We can not do whatever we please to our bodies, since they are not our own. God made us and knows what we need here on earth, so that we, someday, may enter into eternity. If Christ endured immense suffering, then why do we expect any less? We are called to be imitations of Christ and to share in His Passion. Is my life really mine? "If we live, we are responsible to the Lord, and when we die we are responsible to the Lord. Both in life and death we belong to the Lord (Rom; 14:18)." God has a plan, and, each human person having an eternal destiny has a dignity. God, being the author of life, alone has the right to create and take life. No human person has this right to take innocent human life, no matter how one tries to justify it. Thou shall not kill is still a command and not a suggestion, as many seem to believe.
There are many reasons why Euthanasia is gravely immoral, some of which, have already been discussed. Suffering has many benefits, especially suffering in the last days of ones life. In addition to sharing in Christs Passion, one may find peace in God, reconciliation with family and friends, and acceptance of death. One also may be undergoing temporal punishment here on earth through suffering; a sort of purgatory on earth. There are many benefits and advantages to suffering. However, in a pragmatic society as ours, we tend to look past the positives and see only the negative side. This type of reasoning has led many to see death as the answer to suffering, regardless of the consequences.
Euthanasia, whether active or passive, is immoral and contrary to Gods law. Within passive euthanasia, what is considered extraordinary means of sustaining life may not always be clear, but ordinary means, such as hydration and nutrition, must be provided. We must look past the suffering in this world and look towards our eternal home with Christ. As humans we can not always see the answers, and for that reason, God has given us His Church to guide us in these matters of faith. We must also ask ourselves concerning euthanasia; Where will it end? If we allow the elderly or incurable to be assisted in suicide, what other groups will be given this right. Will the handicapped or mentally retarded be next? Will teenagers, who are the leading age group of suicide, also have this right to die? The answer rests in our hands as a people. If we continue to disrespect human life and its Creator, God, then we will destroy ourselves. A right is a moral claim and since we do not have a claim on death, which has a claim on us, we have no right to die. Perhaps Mother Theresa was right when she said that "if a mother can kill her own child, what is there to stop you and me from killing each other?" There is no way to stop this culture of death, unless, we get back to Gods law and speak out, boldly, against the horrors and injustices of the day!
John Sistare, Seminarian of Diocese of Providence
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